Friday, August 3, 2018

BREATHE INTO THE WIND AND RAIN



Sat nav says I'll be in Holyhead at 16.10, making it a six hour trip. You wish, I say to it! But I'm going home and, setting out, I don't mind how long it will take. Its an adventure and my first time taking a car onto a ferry. The sailing isn't until 20.15. All the time in the world!

And being the Feast day of St. Alphonsus - man of beauty, poetry, music - I will admire what unfolds before me.

Lovely readings at Mass. One of my favourite passages from Jeremiah - when your words came I devoured them; your Word was my delight and the joy of my heart. Treasure in the field. Pearl of great price.

Passing near Heathrow a 747 banks beautifully and low in the sky before facing the motorway head on, descending she flew right over us. Thrilling! I'm like a child.

By 2pm I'm growing weary, not feeling too well. The virus of the spring still lingers. Not near as bad as it was but is there, nagging, taunting. So I take a break at Moto near Oxford. Strong coffee. Burger and chips. Beetroot.

My little Yaris has this cute and risky feature. Text messages appear on the sat nav screen. Not actually a great idea all of the time. Onto the screen today popped a message from Sussex Police asking me to contact them.

Police! Straight away I think I must have done something wrong and I scour the days in my mind spanning everything from speeding to safeguarding. It's too soon to stop again so I wait a couple of hours and the traffic is awful and my stress levels go through the top of my head.

I spend half an hour trying to get through but they are seriously busy so I give up.

Back on the road there's nothing for it but to let go and wait. Passing Chester my mind goes back to Maura and other times. The sign for Birkenhead where she lived for many years. The beauty of North Wales. Conway. Penmaenmawr where I gave some happy retreats and lived other nightmares.

I'm on the outside lane, legally overtaking and a white van comes bearing down upon me at an insane speed with less than a chevron between us, not to mind the recommended two. He's asking for trouble I thought. He got it a few miles further down the road. A mile outside Holyhead we came on his overturned van. There were a few cars ahead of me. People running, on phones. Enough. Too many. I enquired of him. He managed to get out. Thankfully. More thankfully he narrowly escaped crashing into a car with a family.

It became like a scene from tv. Police cars, fire brigade, ambulance, flashing lights, sirens, speed and a helicopter landing on the road to take him to hospital.

At home, as a priest, I'd have gone to him to anoint him even in these times but here they wouldn't know what you were at. I'd be in the way. So I prayed for him in the car.

It also gave me time to turn my attention to Sussex Police and we finally made contact. It wasn't anything I had done but they needed my help with a situation. They were very courteous and thoughtful, apologetic about interrupting my journey home.

The rain came down to add to the misery of what was unfolding before us on the road and it became increasingly likely that I would miss the boat so I phoned Irish Ferries who assured me I could get the 2.40am sailing. It didn't matter at all in the face of this accident, in the face of the serious stuff going on in fragile lives.

As it turned out I got to the boat with two minutes to spare. The lady in the check-in cabin shouted "Mr. Monson go directly to Terminal 3 as quickly as you can!" As she thrust into my hand the boarding pass.

And a quick thought flashed through my mind - everything is known! She knew me before I reached her; the Police knew my mobile number which is known to few.

Its all very dramatic! Done with polite and patient urgency. The guys at the ramp guide me into the belly of the ship, show me where to park. Jonah in the belly of the whale. I take my huddie and rain jacket from the the boot, put them on, go upstairs, find the upper deck and breathe into the wind and rain.

We set sail and as soon as we are moving I feel what I always feel on the sea - whole and complete. And as the night closes in and I gaze down on the dark waters I pray and think of all that transpired in the day, how you can never tell and I think of the cargo voyage that I have yet to undertake. A whole week at sea!





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